Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Writer: Saratchandra Chatterjee
Stars: Vidya Balan as Lalita. A woman of dignity with unflinching love for Shekhar. A lovely singer, who resigned to the circumstances, upholding her respect when she faces insult.
Sanjay Dutt as Girish Sharma. Simple and straightforward character who plays Lalita’s moral support with warmth and compassion.
Saif Ali Khan as Shekhar Roy. Shows a balance of love for Lalita and jealousy towards Girish. He is a passionate musician. Towards the end has utter hatred for himself for transforming into such a cold and bitter person.
Raima Sen as Koel. Lalita’s playful, mischievous and cheerful cousin who’s lively, peppy and lives through every moment.
Dia Mirza as Gayatri tatya. Short but a devious character who longs for Shekhar with her charm and beauty.
Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as Naveen Roy. Cold at heart, a shrewd and a conniving businessman who even places human values and relationships below his greed for money.
Surinder Kaur as Rajeshwari. The mother of Shekhar who scornfully watches how badly her husband treats the neighbours and gets ill.
Tina Dutta as Teenage Lalita.
Supriya Shukla as Sunita.
Ninad Kamat as Ajit.
Rekha in a special appearance in song “Kaisi Paheli Zindagaani”.
George Baker as Sir William Eckhart.
Kharaj Mukherjee as Singer in Recording Studio (Male)
The story takes place in 1962 in Kolkata. As the credits roll, scenes from erstwhile Calcutta are displayed along with the narrator’s (Amitabh Bachchan) introduction of the era. The narration focuses on the night of the marriage of Shekhar and Gayatri Tantiya, a rich industrialist’s daughter. The audience is introduced to Naveen Roy as Shekhar’s father while we see Shekhar grooming himself for the occasion. While he is doing so, images of Lalita calling him by his name flash through his mind. Downstairs, musical celebrations begin as Shekhar meets Vasundhara, a widow from his neighbourhood, who is thankful to her son-in-law, Girish (Sanjay Dutt), for supporting their family after the death of her husband, Gurcharan. Lalita, who is present there, playfully confronts Shekhar as to why he is being indifferent to her. Shekhar admonishes her for speaking so in spite of being married.
An angry Shekhar comes back home to play a favourite tune from the past on his piano. The flashback shows a young Shekhar playing Rabindranath Tagore’s tune on his piano while young Lalita and Koel are around. Lalita, with her parents having died in a car accident, lives with Gurcharan’s family. Koel is her cousin whereas Charu is her neighbour. As this scene flashes across Shekhar’s mind, he sings a song full of sadness and loss. As time flies, they grow up to become close friends. The rebellious and musically inclined Shekhar spends his days playing the music of Rabindranath Tagore or Elvis Presley and composing his own songs with Lalita rather than becoming part of his shrewd father’s business. Part of this rebellion involves resistance to meeting Gayatri Tantiya, the beautiful but devious daughter of a wealthy industrialist, whom his father would like Shekhar to marry. Meanwhile, Girish, a steel tycoon from London, makes a dramatic entry into Charu’s house. Girish seems smitten by Lalita while Koel is by Girish. Shekhar is visibly jealous of Lalita’s close friendship with Girish.
One day, a shocked Lalita, who is employed at the Roy’s office, remembers a hotel project from Gurcharan’s ancestral haveli (palatial house). On an earlier occasion, Gurcharan had borrowed money from Naveen Roy after putting his haveli on mortgage. She understands that if the money is not repaid in a few months, Naveen Roy would take over the property. She immediately thinks of asking Shekhar for monetary help. Unforeseen circumstances prevent this, and Girish, upon realising this, alleviates their problem by making Gurcharan his business partner. Gurcharan repays the debt and the turn of events prompts Shekhar to think why Lalita chose to ask Girish for money instead of him. On one auspicious night, Shekhar and Lalita exchange garlands and consummate their “marriage” unbeknownst to anyone else.
While Shekhar is off to Darjeeling on a business trip, Naveen Roy violently thunders at Lalita about the loss of his hotel project, embarrassing and humiliating her. Roy gets a wall built between his and Gurcharan’s house symbolising the end of their association. Gurcharan, unable to digest this, suffers a heart attack. Upon Shekhar’s return, Roy informs him of the ill-health of his mother and Gurcharan viciously adds a note of Lalita and Girish’s marriage. Shekhar is disgusted to hear of the marriage and in his anger he scowls at Lalita, humiliating her like his father. Meanwhile, Girish assists Gurcharan’s family and takes them to London for the heart treatment. Misunderstandings follow and upon the family’s return from London, Shekhar assumes that Girish and Lalita are married and agrees to marry Gayatri. The film returns to the night of Shekhar’s marriage when Girish hands him the ownership papers of Gurcharan’s haveli. He shocks Shekhar by telling him that he married Koel because Lalita denied his marriage proposal. As a conclusion, Shekhar confronts his father and symbolically breaks down the wall separating the two families. He then brings Lalita to his home as his bride much to the delight of his mother.